Jim Calhoun, head coach of the UConn men’s basketball team, has taken a indefinite leave of absence due to an unspecified medical situation. Although Calhoun has had three bouts with cancer, once prostate and twice skin, his primary caretaker has said that Calhoun is not taking the leave because of an emergence of any of his past illnesses and medical problems. Instead, his doctor called the medical issues “temporary.”
Assistant coach George Blaney will take over as head coach while Calhoun is on his leave of absence. UConn is 11-6 on the season and will face St. Johns Wednesday, followed by a big time matchup with Texas on Saturday, January 23rd. It is unclear whether or not Calhoun will be able to return for the Texas game, or whether the leave of absence will be for a longer period.
The big question many UConn fans is, how will this affect UConn this year and down the road? For this year specifically, UConn is by no means a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament this year. With a 11-6 record and an unimpressive 2-3 Big East Record, the Huskies still face a treacherous Big East schedule and the Texas matchup. With only 14 games remaining before the conference tournament, UConn will have trouble at its current pace to hit 20 wins and qualify for the NCAA tournament. However, if the team can play to its potential, UConn could easily still make the tournament. It will be interesting to see how Calhoun’s leave of absence affects the team.
The long term impact on the Huskies will also be interesting. If Calhoun remains on his leave of absence for a considerable period, the recruiting may likely suffer within the program. UConn would be put in a difficult position if Calhoun stayed on his leave for an extended stretch. Calhoun is already 67 years old, and the fact that he has had many illnesses in the past may dissuade recruits even without Calhoun’s leave taken into account. Big time recruits want to know with confidence that their coach will remain with the school for their entire four years, and Calhoun’s age and medical history may dissuade some recruits. His current leave of absence, and the potential length of this leave, may dissuade recruits even more.
Calhoun’s contract is up on June 30th, 2010. It was reported that UConn offered Calhoun a 5 year extension in December, but it is not known at this point whether or not he ever formally agreed to the contract.